Lack Of Experience Deadly For Troops

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-04-2001
Lack Of Experience Deadly For Troops
Tue, 06-22-2010 - 11:57am

The price being paid for a "Commander In Chief" who lacks experience is showing; God bless the troops:

Gen. McChrystal to apologize in Washington for anti-administration comments

By Ernesto Londoño and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 22, 2010; 10:52 AM

KABUL -- The top U.S. general in Afghanistan is headed to Washington to apologize for a magazine profile that includes highly critical remarks by him and his staff about top Obama administration officials involved in Afghanistan policy.

The article in this week's Rolling Stone magazine is certain to increase tension between the White House and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. The profile of McChrystal, titled the "Runaway General," also raises fresh questions about the judgment and leadership style of the commander appointed by President Obama last year in an effort to turn around a worsening conflict.

McChrystal and some of his senior advisers are quoted speaking derisively of top administration officials, often in sharply flippant and dismissive terms. An anonymous McChrystal aide is quoted as calling national security adviser James L. Jones a "clown," who remains "stuck in 1985."

Referring to Richard C. Holbrooke, Obama's senior envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, one McChrystal aide is quoted as saying: "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous."

On one occasion, McChrystal appears to react with exasperation when he receives an e-mail from Holbrooke. "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke," McChrystal says, according to the article. "I don't even want to read it."

The story also features an exchange in which McChrystal and some of his aides appear to mock Vice President Biden, who opposed McChrystal's troop surge recommendation last year and instead urged a more focused emphasis on counterterrorism operations. Preparing for a speech he is about to give at a French military academy, McChrystal "wonders aloud" whether he will questioned about the well-publicized differences in opinion between himself and Biden.

"Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who's that?" McChrystal says with a laugh, trying out the line as a hypothetical response to the anticipated query.

"Biden?" chimes in an aide who is seated nearby, and who is not named in the article. "Did you say Bite me?"

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired three-star general who has sharp policy differences with McChrystal, isn't spared either. Referring to a leaked cable from Eikenberry that expressed concerns about the trustworthiness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, McChrystal is quoted as having said: "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so.' "

The magazine hits newsstands Friday and could be posted online earlier as early as Tuesday. The Washington Post received an advance copy of the article from its author, Michael Hastings, a freelance journalist who has written for The Post in the past.

The comments by McChrystal and his staff, many of whom were quoted anonymously, surfaced on the eve of the president's monthly meeting with his top advisers on Afghanistan, which is scheduled to take place Wednesday.

McChrystal typically joins that meeting by a secure videoconference from Afghanistan, but he was summoned to Washington to participate directly and explain his remarks, a senior administration official said Tuesday morning. The meeting, includes Biden and many of the other advisers whom McChrystal or his staff mocked in the article.

"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile," McChrystal said in a statement issued Tuesday morning. "It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and it should have never happened."

McChrystal's civilian press aide, Duncan Boothby, submitted his resignation Tuesday as a result of the article, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because it was a personnel issue.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said she had no immediate comment on the piece.

Lt. Col. Joseph Breasseale, a U.S. military spokesman, said McChrystal called Biden and other senior administration officials Tuesday morning (Monday evening in Washington) in reference to the article. "After these discussions, he decided to travel to the U.S. for a meeting," Breasseale said in an e-mail.

Officials in Washington who were familiar with the situation said the general apologized to Biden during the phone call.

It is not the first time that McChrystal has been dressed down by Obama. Shortly after the general's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan was made public last year, McChrystal gave a speech in London in which he publicly criticized those who advocated a scaled-back effort in Afghanistan.

Those comments were widely seen as being directed against Biden, who had promoted an approach in the country focused on targeting terrorists more narrowly. After that speech, an angry Obama summoned McChrystal to a face-to-face meeting on Air Force One in Copenhagen, where Obama had arrived to pitch Chicago's Olympic bid.

White House officials declined to comment publicly Tuesday morning, but the latest public relations blunder by McChrystal was viewed as sure to further strain his relationship with a president who puts a premium on message discipline and loyalty.

The timing of the piece could hardly be worse. Amid a flurry of bad news in Afghanistan and a jump in NATO casualties, U.S. lawmakers and senior officials from NATO allied countries are asking increasingly sharp questions about the U.S.-led war strategy.

Dutch and Canadian troops are scheduled to pull out within the next year. And the White House has said it will start drawing down U.S. forces next July. (Photos of recent troop activities in Kandahar, Afghanistan)

Most of the critical remarks in the article come from aides to the general, rather than McChrystal himself. Many of the quotes are anonymous. The magazine story also includes descriptions of McChrystal's staff drinking heavily at an Irish pub in Paris, "two officers doing an Irish jig mixed with steps from a traditional Afghan wedding dance," and advisers singing a slurred, intoxicated songs whose only lyrics seem to be "Afghanistan, Afghanistan."

The profile includes criticism that McChrystal is facing from some of his own troops, who have grown frustrated with new rules that force commanders be extraordinarily judicious in using lethal force.

A few weeks ago, according to the magazine, the general traveled to a small outpost in Kandahar province, in southern Afghanistan, to meet with a unit of soldiers reeling from the loss of a comrade, 23-year-old Cpl. Michael Ingram.

The corporal was killed in a booby-trapped house that some of the unit's commanders had unsuccessfully sought permission to blow up.

One soldier at the outpost showed Hastings, who was traveling with the general, a written directive instructing troops to "patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourself with lethal force."

During a tense meeting with Ingram's platoon, one sergeant tells McChrystal: "Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we're losing, sir."

McChrystal has championed a counterinsurgency strategy that prioritizes protecting the population as a means to marginalize and ultimately defeat the insurgency. Because new rules sharply restrict the circumstances under which airstrikes and other lethal operations that have resulted in civilian casualties can be conducted, some soldiers say the strategy has left them more exposed.

June is on track to be the deadliest month for NATO troops in Afghanistan since the war began nearly nine years ago. At least 63 NATO troops have been killed so far this month, including 10 who died Monday in a helicopter crash and a series of attacks.

In his statement, McChrystal says he has "enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team."

"Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity," the general said. "What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard."

More Washington Post coverage of Afghanistan:


iVillage Member
Registered: 06-07-2010
Tue, 06-22-2010 - 2:26pm
Our military recognizes a Community-Organizer-in-Chief when they see one.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-04-2001
Tue, 06-22-2010 - 2:53pm
As my military father would say:
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-07-2010
Tue, 06-22-2010 - 5:35pm
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-01-2004
Wed, 06-23-2010 - 9:45am

Obama plans Wednesday showdown with McChrystal
By: Glenn Thrush
June 22, 2010 01:40 PM EDT

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s MacArthur moment was more than an embarrassment for the White House — it was a reminder of just how badly Barack Obama’s “good war” in Afghanistan is going.

The challenge facing Obama in responding to his loose-lipped Afghanistan commander has an obvious parallel in Harry Truman’s firing of Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

But it might actually be more comparable to another, more chronic presidential leadership crisis: Abraham Lincoln’s dilemma during the Civil War, when he was forced to repeatedly reshuffle his general staff in the face of vacillating public opinion, insubordination and, above all else, uncertainty about how best to win a bloody war he couldn’t afford to lose.

“Afghanistan is a mess, and it’s getting worse. To make matters worse, the president’s been dealing with internal squabbling on this for some time,” says Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, who has written extensively on Afghanistan.

“If there’s a bright side to all this, it’s that the president has an opportunity to reattach himself to a new policy, fire this guy and start with something new,” Clemons said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to reset. But he can’t do anything until he fires McChrystal.”

The general has already apologized for comments attributed to him and his leadership team in a caustic Rolling Stone story, in which his aides reportedly portrayed the commander in chief as a disengaged dilettante and blasted Obama’s Afghanistan team as feckless. He’s been summoned back to Washington to face a furious president and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who could remove him from command, reprimand or demote him.

Obama on Tuesday said the comments in the article showed “poor judgment, but I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decision.”

Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs clearly opened the door to Obama relieving the general of command, saying, “All options are on the table.”

But even if Obama sacks his Afghanistan commander, McChrystal’s comments have laid bare a nasty internal battle among members of Obama’s joint military-civilian Afghanistan team that is splintered by personality conflicts and divided over how to end the longest war in American history.

Underlying everything is a far bigger problem. Obama’s strategy of shifting the military’s focus — and 30,000 troops — from Iraq to Afghanistan hasn’t yet yielded a major breakthrough. And it’s not clear how many troops he will be able to pull out of the country by next July, his self-imposed deadline for commencing withdrawal.

The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has obscured a steadily increasing drumbeat of bad news and ill omens on Afghanistan. After mixed results in the campaign to retake Marja, the Pentagon was forced to delay a critical summer offensive in Kandahar, the cradle of the Taliban insurgency. Earlier this year, simmering tensions between the administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai broke into the open with U.S. officials sharply criticizing Karzai on issues ranging from corruption and nepotism to the fitness of the country’s fighting forces to electoral reform — set against the backdrop of a resurgent Taliban.

The lack of tangible success seems to be splitting official Washington, slowly but inexorably, into hawks and doves, with Gates bearing the flag for those who favor a relatively open-ended large-scale commitment of troops in Afghanistan, while Vice President Joe Biden and others push for a far more scaled-down approach. Obama is somewhere in the middle.

People close to Obama say the president recognizes the McChrystal situation isn’t just about one general but about recalibrating policy after a delay of the summer offensive in Kandahar while harmonizing a fractious team of military and civilian advisers.

The president, they hope, will use the McChrystal imbroglio to iron out differences among an array of key players, including Gates, Biden, Petraeus and a pair of strong-willed State Department advisers — AfPak troubleshooter Richard Holbrooke and U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.

It won’t be easy. Obama — whose appeal to the Democratic base is rooted in his opposition to the Iraq war — faces strong popular headwinds against the war in Afghanistan, with poll after poll showing a majority of Americans supporting some kind of withdrawal.

Many in the military still view the Afghanistan war as winnable and argue that the biggest threat is defeatism back home.

In the Rolling Stone piece, freelance reporter Michael Hastings illustrates the difficulty of selling a rapid drawdown to the Pentagon: “Facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course.”

Such realism, Hastings adds, “doesn’t prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. ‘There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here,’ a senior military official in Kabul tells me.”

Gates hasn’t gone that far. But he has expressed optimism that the U.S. has a chance to prevail if commanders are allowed to finish the job, which includes winning the hearts and minds of civilians.

That seems to put him in conflict with Biden, an Afghanistan skeptic, who recently told Obama biographer Jonathan Alter to “bet on” a significant percentage of U.S. troops departing the country when withdrawal begins in July 2011.

Last fall, when the White House was in the midst of reviewing its Afghanistan strategy, McChrystal said a counterterrorism approach, the one favored by Biden, would lead to “Chaos-istan,” during a question-and-answer session at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies in London.

That comment led to a meeting with Obama on Air Force One, which was parked on a tarmac in Copenhagen, where Obama had gone to promote Chicago’s unsuccessful bid for the Olympics.

The White House pushed back against the anecdote, arguing that Biden had been rushing out the door when Alter quoted him, and Gates questioned Alter’s veracity.

But administration sources say Biden’s remarks are in keeping with his longstanding opinions, and McChrystal reportedly recognizes Biden as an adversary.

Like everything else surrounding the war, opinions on how Obama should punish McChrystal are divided.

The president made a misstep by summoning McChrystal to the White House, said John Ullyot, a Republican strategist and former press secretary for the Senate Armed Services Committee. That decision has plucked the disciplinary decision out of the military chain of command and politicized it, Ullyot said, while giving the media an extra day to ruminate on dissension in the ranks.

“While it’s easy to say ‘yes, you should fire him,’ you’re in the middle of an operation here, and you’ve got to really worry about the kids on the ground,” said Larry Korb, a defense expert with the Center for American Progress, who noted that McChrystal wasn’t quoted directly in the piece disparaging Obama.

“If I were McChrystal, I would offer my resignation and then, if the president takes it, you go gracefully, and it’s a win-win,” Korb said.

But a trio of Senate hawks often critical of Obama’s foreign policy stances — John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) — suggested they would support McChrystal’s removal.

“The decision concerning Gen. McChrystal’s future,” they said, “is a decision to be made by the president of the United States.”

Jen DiMascio contributed to this report.

© 2010 Capitol News Company, LLC

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2010
Wed, 06-23-2010 - 9:53am
They sure do! The administration would have to fire
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2007
Wed, 06-23-2010 - 10:24am
Boy talk about insulting the military!!! It's called insubordination.
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2010
Wed, 06-23-2010 - 12:03pm

You don't hang out with the military much, do you? I am married to the military, 17 years of living and hanging out with them, so tell me, how exactly did i "insult the military?" I thought the libs always like the freedom of speech thing? One can't express a dislike?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2007
Wed, 06-23-2010 - 12:34pm

Well let's see, my son is in the military, 6 out of 9 of my Uncles were in WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, To many cousins to count are in/or were in the military. My step Dad was in WWII. My brother was Killed in Nam. Oh, I had a Great Uncle that left half of his body in Europe. Have a G'son that's thinking about enlisting. All most forgot, my ex husband was in the military. These are just the ones that I can think about right this second.

If we have Generals that are out there saying this kind of stuff, they are putting our country at risk. And yes I realize that the Military tries to turn everyone into a Republican!

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2010
Wed, 06-23-2010 - 1:59pm
Ok but still, how did i insult the military?
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2007
Wed, 06-23-2010 - 2:26pm

"probably those slackers that joined the military for a job."

My son, until April was a recruiter. He has turned so many people away because they are unfit for service. So I don't understand the slacker comment. Right now, we probably have to best and brightest of just about any Military in recent history.

Edited 6/23/2010 2:53 pm ET by ohearto

Edited 6/23/2010 2:54 pm ET by ohearto